Muslim Reservation : Is CM Uddhav transforming Balasaheb’s Sena into ‘Secular Sena’ to retain power??

Even though the three-party Maharashtra -Vikas-Aghadi coalition appears to be speaking in different voices on the issue of reservation for the Muslim community in the state, CM Uddhav -led Shiv Sena has conceded the demand of its “secular partners” of the alliance on the issue. After dumping its core “agenda” of Hinduvta, the Sena is now trying to functioning as a “secular party” on the line of Congress and the NCP by appeasing minorities to retain power in the state. And by accepting the Muslim reservation, it has again confirmed that the Sena which compromised its “Hinduvta” ideology for the chief minsiter’s post, would not hesitate to make compromise on any issue to retain power in the state.

On Friday, in a massive development, the coalition government has announced in the state Legislative Council a 5% reservation for Muslims in school and colleges. The Maharashtra minister for minority affairs, Nawab Malik, who also the spokesperson of the NCP, in response to Congress legislator Sharad Ranpise revealed that a bill would be introduced and the government would ensure its smooth passage. Malik added that action will be taken to ensure the passage before the beginning of the admissions for the next academic year.

However, Malik had said in January this year that the move was in talks since the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) but had not been finalised yet. In spite of reservation in Maharashtra breaching 70%, sources on January 31, reported that the Thackeray-led Aghadi government is preparing to introduce a Muslim-based reservation in the state. Incidentally, a Muslim reservation was mentioned in Congress and NCP’s manifesto. Surprisingly, the senior Sena minister Eknath Shinde, said that the government had not taken any such decision yet. No decision has been taken yet. Leaders of the MVA will together take a call on all policy decisions about giving reservation to any community. The Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will take an appropriate decision at the appropriate time,” Shinde said, within hours of Malik’s statement.

The Sena leader’s stance is at variance with Malik’s statement, as the latter had given an impression in the House that the issue was a done deal. Malik also claimed later on that the Sena was on board with his decision. “Let me assure you, the Sena has assured us that justice would be given to all backward classes, castes and communities,” the minister said. Shinde’s statement has, however, created confusion about Sena’s stand. The Shiv Sena had in the recent past indicated that it was not averse to giving reservation for the community in jobs and education. But, it is unclear how it would react now, since rival MNS, led by the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s cousin Raj Thackeray, has jumped on to the Hindutva bandwagon lately. The BJP, on its part, has also queered the pitch somewhat, with opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis saying the move could impact the reservation already provided to the Maratha community and the Other Backward Classes in the state.

While opposing the move, the BJP also mentioned that the religion-based quota is unconstitutional and no government can provide such reservation. The BJP National Vice President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe alleged that the decision was taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government to harness “vote-bank politics,” and recalled that similar cases have been rejected even by the Supreme Court, as religion-based quota is ‘unconstitutional.’ The new development also indicated that Uddhav has conceded the agenda of its partners, the Congress and NCP after bowing to their pressure. It also shows that the Sena that always fought for “Hinduvta” can compromise anything to retain power in the state.

The Maharashtra earlier had 50% reservation in educational institutions and government jobs. In June 2019, Bombay High court allowed 12% and 13% reservation respectively education and jobs for Maratha caste (SEBC). After the Union Cabinet approved the 10% reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS), the reservation has been estimated to increase up to 75% making Maharashtra with the highest percentage of reservation in the country in compare to any other states. There is no reservation granted on the basis of religion in the Central educational institutions at the national level, although reservation has been extended to religious minorities in some states. The Tamil Nadu government has allotted 3.5% of seats each to Muslims and Christians, thereby altering the OBC reservation to 23% from 30% (since it excludes persons belonging to Other Backward Castes who are either Muslims or Christians).

The Government of Andhra Pradesh introduced a law enabling 4 percent reservations for Muslims in 2004. This law was upheld by the Supreme Court in an interim order in 2010 but it constituted a Constitution bench to look further into the issue. The referral was to examine the constitutional validity of quotas based on religion. The Kerala Public Service Commission has a quota of 6% for Muslims. Religious minority (Muslim or Christian) educational institutes also have 50% reservation for Muslim or Christian religions. The Central government has listed a number of Muslim communities as backward Muslims, making them eligible for reservation and hence Muslims reservation would definitely be a bone of contention in political circles in coming days. One thing is very sure, Grand old Chanakya , Sharad Pawar Saheb is making Maha-Aghadi government dance to his tunes and not leaving a single opportunity in consolidating his vote bank .